Resident proposes Sustainability Commission at June Council Meeting

Mindy Miner hopes Rockford can be 100 percent renewable by 2030

by BETH ALTENA

Don’t propose an idea unless you are prepared to chair it. That may have been the take-home for Mindy Minor, Rockford resident, who proposed a Sustainability Commission to Rockford City Council during the regular meeting on Monday, June 11. The proposal was met with positive response from council, who suggested she chair the new organization.

Minor began assisted with a powerpoint presentation. “I am here, because like you, I love the City of Rockford,” she said. “Since retiring, I worry way too much about the world we are leaving to our children.” She said sustainability is a lifestyle which implies we change the way new think about behavior, personal and business. It is actually good for profit, good for the bottom line, and the environment. She believes Rockford is a progressive community which is very well suited to look to sustainability.

    She said the cornerstone of her plan involves people, the planet, profit and accountability and six areas of sustainability. They are Energy, Waste, Water, Land, Transportation and Community. Under Energy, she suggested ideas such as electrical vehicle charging stations. Under Waste, she said in Michigan only 40 percent of waste material is recycled, and this is a low amount. The Kent County has a goal of zero percent material in landfills by 2030. Here in Rockford there could be a compound for composting organic material
from restaurants.

“Water. Here in Rockford we are painfully aware of how vital healthy water is,” Miner stated. Fixes for the future could be permeable parking lots, for example the ones across the street from the tannery property which slope right down to Rum Creek. Curb cut rain gardens could be increased. Parkside Elementary just put in one in their parking lot. In the category of Land, she pointed to the White Pine Trail, a wonderful resource, but also a highway for invasive species. She suggested Rockford could reestablish itself as a Tree City.

Under Transportation, she suggested a Rockford Trolley, especially good for Rockford businesses that suffer from the parking issues in the city. She suggested a partnership, such as with the senior living group Storypoint.

Under Community and sustainability, “Rockford is already so good at that. Look at Start of Summer.” Although she noted that “Some of us that run that are a little older.” She suggested a tool library where people could share tools rather than buying their own. Also, a community 401K for people’s retirement plan. This would be especially good for part time workers here who do not have benefits with their employment.

Miner suggested a commission should consist of seven to eleven commissioners with one expert in each area. They could serve staggered three year terms with the possibility of extended terms. Because the commission could be dealing with multiple projects at one time, there would be a need for subcommittees in charge of different projects. She stated that Rockford could set a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and pointed out the City of Grand Rapids has set that goal for 2025, and GR is much bigger than Rockford.

“Thank you for listening, I hope you will consider doing this.” Mayor Steve Jazwiec asked fellow council members what they thought of the idea of a sustainability commission. He asked Miner if members should be in the city limits or in the greater Rockford area and Miner said ideally members would live within the city. He asked if she would be willing to chair the commission and she said yes. He asked if establishing a commission would begin by creating bylaws of by appointing commissioners first. Miner said this was a good question. “I do have examples of bylaws from around the country, It shouldn’t be so hard to create that.”

Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Scales said it would be good to put out the word that the council is looking for residents who could join the group, and Miner said maybe there were enough people in that night›s audience to serve. She pointed out that Parkside Elementary has Green School Certification and has the highest status of Emerald. People involved in that could be of use in creating a sustainability commission. Councilman Terry Konkle suggested setting up a work session to get started on the project.